Picking off from where I left off yesterday’s countdown. If you missed that, you can read it here. Otherwise, read on…
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writer: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brian
Principal Cast: Seth Rogan, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Opening: May 9
The Pitch: After a fraternity sets up shop in the house next door, a young couple (Rogan, Byrne) go to extreme lengths to make sure the frat boys get evicted/suspended from their university.
The Tag: Family v.s. Frat
Why I’m Excited: Okay, this one’s a bit of a cheat. I’ve already seen it – and it’s hilarious! Not just chuckle-worthy hilarious but all out howl-out-loud hilarious. Neighbors may be broader and bawdier than Stoller’s previous three films Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek and The Five-Year-Engagement but it’s also a deceptively clever film that doubles as a sharp and funny commentary on the divide between 30-something millenials their early 20-something counterparts. While Rogan and Efron make perfectly good foils for each other, it’s Byrne that leaves the biggest mark on the film. She may have played third-fiddle in Bridesmaids but she’s the clear MVP this time – handling double duty of “concerned mom” and “awkward party monster” with aplomb. If it catches on with audiences the way it did at the screening I attended, it’s going to be tough for any other comedy to beat it as the comedy of the year.
Director: David Michôd
Writer: David Michôd
Principal Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, David Field
Opening: June 13 (June 20 in South Florida)
The Pitch: In a post-apocalyptic Australian outback, a drifter (Pearce) with a violent streak goes on the hunt to find his stolen car with the reluctant assistance of an illiterate bum (Pattinson) whose gang robbed the car.
The Tag: Fear the man with nothing left to lose.
Why I’m Excited: Writer-director David Michôd’s first film, the underworld drama Animal Kingdom, was one of those audacious debuts that make you stand up and take notice. It garnered Jackie Weaver an Oscar nomination and announced the arrival of Joel Edgerton and Ben Mendelsohn. Michôd stays in his native Australia for his follow-up feature, The Rover, a gritty thriller starring the perpetually underrated Pearce in a role that calls to mind Mad Max and The Proposition. Booking a cushy Midnight screening premiere at Cannes is no easy task so it’s bound to be at least half-good, going by the festival’s reputation. Judging by the trailer, Pearce looks to be in rare form. Pattinson may be the other high profile star here but I’m keeping an eye out for McNairy who continues to be one of the most interesting and exciting young character actors in the industry at the moment. Also keep an eye out for him on AMC’s upcoming summer series Halt and Catch Fire.
Director: Anton Corbijn
Writer: Andrew Bowell
Principal Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Bruhl
Opening: July 15
The Pitch: When a Chechen Muslim immigrant arrives in Hamburg, a secret counter-intelligence agency starts an international manhunt for him fearing him to be a terrorist.
The Tag: It takes a minnow to catch a barracuda, a barracuda to catch a shark.
Why I’m Excited: The short take? Philip Seymour Hoffman. The longer take: Anton Corbijn’s adaptation of John le Carré’s novel A Most Wanted Man had always been on my radar but Corbijn’s previous film, The American, was a pretentious disappointment so this wasn’t going to show up very high on my must-see list. However, after reviewers at Sundance unanimously agreed that Hoffman’s performance as a grizzled German intelligence agent was among his best performances, the film rocketed up that list. Things only took a turn for the tragic after the news of his passing. Despite my reservations with Corbijn’s previous film, I was a big proponent of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the last le Carré adaptation to hit cinemas. Though the trailer may suggest a Bourne-style riveting thriller, I’m going in expecting a slow-burn mood-piece, which is exactly what makes it so exciting.
Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Writer: Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman
Principal Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Dave Franco, Peter Stormare
Opening: June 13
The Pitch: Officers Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) once again go undercover to bust up a drug ring. But this time they’re going to college.
The Tag: They’re not 21 anymore.
Why I’m Excited: 21 Jump Street was the funniest comedy of 2012. It was also one of the year’s biggest surprises. Aside from successfully remaking a ‘80s television show, it also proved that Channing Tatum could actually act and be funny. After the breakout success of that film, both Tatum and Hill are back for seconds, as are directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – two guys who couldn’t be on a hotter streak. With big box office bucks near guaranteed, this will surely become the directing duo’s second smash of the year after The LEGO Movie turned tides in February. Although the funny trailer doesn’t look as exciting as the one for the first film, the college setting, plus the stellar team, both in front and behind the camera, makes this my most anticipated comedy of the summer.
Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Mark Bomback
Principal Cast: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Jason Clarke, Judy Greer
Opening: July 11
The Pitch: 10 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes the surviving humans lead an all-out war against Caesar (Serkis) and his army of apes.
The Tag: n/a
Why I’m Excited: Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the biggest surprise of the summer of 2011. I expected it to be another foolhardy attempt to reboot a series that had already fell on its face a decade earlier with Tim Burton’s disastrous remake but with Rupert Wyatt’s assured hand and Andy Serkis’ tremendous performance, the resulting film was a smart and unexpectedly moving blockbuster. Unsurprisingly, it caught on big time with critics and, more crucially, audiences who made it one of the year’s biggest hits. With three years of good-will and good buzz, this sequel enters the conversation with a new but more exciting director at the helm—Matt Reeves—whose previous two features, Cloverfield and the underrated Let Me In, give me more faith in this sequel. It also merits mentioning that the most important element from the first film, Andy Serkis, returns to play Caesar. He’s joined by a strong supporting cast that includes Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Jason Clarke among others. There hasn’t been much footage released so far other than a foreboding teaser trailer but expect that to change soon.
Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn
Principal Cast: Christ Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and voices of Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
Opening: August 1
The Pitch: On the far side of the universe, an American pilot (Pratt) teams up with green-skinned assassin (Saldana), a vengeance-seeking warrior (Bautista), a tree creature (Diesel) and a foul-mouthed talking raccoon (Cooper) after they’re chased across the galaxy for stealing a priceless gem.
The Tag: You’re welcome.
Why I’m Excited: Iron Man, definitely; Captain America, sure; Hulk, okay; Thor, ah why not. Marvel has taken their fair share of risks. Shit, The Avengers was one of the biggest risks for a big studio ever! But of all of them, Guardians of the Galaxy has to be the craziest project they’ve signed off on. A $100 million-budgeted space-set adventure-comedy based on a little known comic starring a bunch of no-names, not to mention a tree and a talking raccoon. Odd doesn’t begin to describe it. Marvel head Kevin Feige clearly sees something in this material and he’s backed it with Gunn, a strong filmmaker with a pretty twisted voice (Sliver, Super), as well as a talented cast including Pratt, who seems poised to break out if this movie hits. Although I wasn’t sure with what Marvel and company were going for at first, an exciting teaser trailer released earlier this year changed things. Even if ends up being a big disappointment, at least Feige and company can say that they tried. That’s more than what most studios can claim this summer.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writer: Max Borenstein
Principal Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe
Opening: May 16
The Pitch: The world’s most famous Kaiju is pitted against creatures in a war for the future of humanity.
The Tag: GODZILLA
Why I’m Excited: I’m going to reiterate what I said a couple of months ago when Warner Brothers released their first full-length trailer. This thing looks enormous! And I’m not just talking about the monster but the movie itself. It really surprised me when WB announced that they’d be handing the keys of a massive franchise such as this to Edwards, a new and untested director with only one feature credit to his name, the little seen indie alien invasion thriller Monsters. But going by the sensational trailers released so far, it looks like WB was right to put their faith in him. I know you should never judge a book by its cover but even if this thing turns out to be a giant piece of mierda, at the very least, it’ll erase all memory of the last time Hollywood tried to bring the iconic Kaiju to the big screen.
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater
Principal Cast: Elar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater
Opening: July 11 (July 25 in South Florida)
The Pitch: The life of a boy is chronicled from the age of six to 18.
The Tag: n/a
Why I’m Excited: The last time writer-director Richard Linklater released a movie, it topped my Best of 2013 list. That film was the culmination of one of the most ambitious trilogies in cinema. This year, he follows it up with something even more ambitious. Taking a page from Michael Apted’s Up series (which I sadly have yet to see), Linklater began filming Boyhood in 2002 with six year old Elar Coltrane and actors Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as his parents. Since then, Linklater’s come back to shoot the film with his small team of actors for a few weeks every year in service of a unique, some would say literal, coming-of-age tale. With Coltrane all grown up, the movie finally saw the light of day this January at Sundance where it received some of the most ecstatic reviews of any film that premiered at the fest. It’s just the type of early festival response that made Before Midnight my most anticipated movie of summer 2013.
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Simon Kinberg
Principal Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, James MacAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence
Opening: May 23
The Pitch: Hoping to erase a devastating future where mutants are being wiped out by metallic beings known as Sentinals, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) send Wolverine (Jackman) back in time to the 70s to convince the duo’s younger selves (MacAvoy, Fassbender) to unite and save all kind.
The Tag: This summer, the future begins.
Why I’m Excited: Okay, so this isn’t the best of times for a certain filmmaker but that horrible story aside, there’s no big budget studio movie I’m anticipating more this year than this seventh installment in the long-running X-Men franchise. Combining the casts of the original trilogy with the acclaimed cast from the thrilling X-Men: First Class was a stroke of genius, especially since they’re all being used to bring one of the series’ most acclaimed and well-known story arcs to life. Although Singer has been missing the beat of late—Jack the Giant Slayer anyone?—his return to the series he helped shape is definitely a cause for excitement. Trailers have been uniformly excellent so far leading me to believe that it has the potential to be at least on par with X2 as the series’ finest entry. Now if both this and Godzilla fall flat, this summer’s going to be one long slog.
Director: Michael Bay
Principal Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kelsey Grammer, Optimus Prime
The Pitch: Michael Bay is back! And he’s back for your money! And just to make sure you give it to him, he’s bringing some dinosaur Transformers along… AND Mark Wahlberg.
The Tag: Say hi to your Megatron for me!
Why I’m Excited: I can’t even pretend to be excited for this. This is torturous! Scroll down for the real number one.
Director: Steve James
Writer: Steve James
Principal Cast: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog
Opening: July 11
The Pitch: The life, career and struggles of beloved film critic Roger Ebert is chronicled in the documentary from Steve James.
The Tag: The only thing Roger loved more than movies.
Why I’m Excited: This will sound like a cliche (and it probably is) but no writer has impacted my life more than Roger Ebert. For nearly every week from 2001 to 2006, I used to anxiously wait for his reviews. It didn’t matter if a movie got a 15% or 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, if Roger liked it, I’d go see it. If he trashed a movie I was excited for, I’d be bummed but go see it anyway. Pearl Harbor was one of those. Eventually, as my tastes began to mature, so did my interest in writing, particularly about film. I owe a lot of that to Ebert. It goes without saying that his passing last year was a major loss to the world of cinema. Reading all the eloquent tributes on the web the week after he died reminded me how many lives he profoundly impacted. This summer, Life Itself, an adaptation of his best-selling memoir hits big screens, courtesy of acclaimed filmmaker Steve James whose work (Hoop Dreams in particular) meant a great deal to Roger. Life Itself, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, isn’t merely a career-retrospective doc but also a chronicle of Ebert’s lasting legacy, his battle with alcoholism, an exploration of his relationships, with his wife Chaz, his long-time friend and screen partner Gene Siskel, as well as with his fans and enemies. To say that I’m excited for this movie is an understatement.
Get On Up
This James Brown biopic from Tate Taylor (The Help) looks to be ticking off all the requisite biopic check boxes but Chadwick Boseman is one of the most exciting actors to break out in the last two years. If he delivers the way Viola Davis did in Taylor’s previous movie, the director will be 2-2 with schmaltzy, crowd-pleasing dramas.
Million Dollar Arm
Don Draper goes to India, finds Pi and Slumdog Millionaire’s brother, and forces them to play baseball. Sounds like the annual summer stereotype entry but I’m curious.
Melissa McCarthy is hit-or-miss with me. She’s undoubtedly talented and can be hilarious in the right role (Bridesmaids, The Heat) but without a solid director, her shtick can be off-putting (Identity Thief). The teaser for Tammy, which she wrote with her husband Ben Falcone (who also directs) hints at more of the latter than the former i.e. low-brow physical comedy. McCarthy is better than that so I hope I’m wrong.
Woah… Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz are in amazing shape! That’s my biggest takeaway from this trailer. Sure, it looks funny and I’ve enjoyed director Jake Kasdan’s previous comedies (Bad Teacher, Walk Hard, Orange County) but lame iPad jokes aside, why does this movie feel like it’s already 10 years behind the curve?
BIG QUESTION MARKS
If there’s any movie this summer that screams $200 million mega bomb, it’s this one. I’ve watched the trailer for this sci-fi space opera at least five times now and I still can’t understand what’s supposed to be going on. Okay, Mila Kunis is God but what the hell is that THING on Tatum’s face? Also, Sean Bean will die a horrible death. Calling it now.
Wish I Was Here
(July 18. August 1 in South Florida)
Zack Braff’s crowd-sourced passion project (and follow-up to Garden State) hits big screens after a tepid reception at Sundance. At the very least, it’ll have a terrific soundtrack. It already has a slick trailer.
Yea, it looks cool but so do most of Besson’s movies. It’s just that they’re devoid of sanity. Johansson is poised to claim the female action hero throne vacated by Angelina Jolie so I’m intrigued with that possibility but nothing else about this Limitless/Maria Full of Grace mash-up impresses me.
(A RHETORICAL) WHY?
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
I’m in the minority here: I didn’t care for Sin City. This sequel, which is being dumped in the gravyard of late August, is already a decade late. Hardcore fans of the first will line up but Rodriguez, who hasn’t made a genuinely good movie in ages, will crush them.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Have you seen the trailers? I’ll ask you again, have you seen the trailers? If the answer is YES, then weep with me. If it’s NO, then avoid it.
Planes: Fire and Rescue
a.k.a. Merchandising, the sequel.
The Purge: Anarchy
Because one movie wasn’t enough.
BEYOND THE MULTIPLEXES
(June 27 – limited)
This would have made my top 10 if it had been released a year ago. But after what feels like an eternity of internal conflicts (Harvey “Scissorfingers” Weinstein), delays and mixed word-of-mouth, I’m not so sure what to expect.
The Hundred-Foot Journey
There’s always one late summer film geared towards older demographics that surprises. This one from Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), which was adapted by the great Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things, Locke) from the acclaimed best-seller fits the description. It also stars Helen Mirren, a bunch of great Indian actors and happens to be produced by Oprah and Spielberg.
(May 23 – limited)
As long as Mia Wasikowski continues picking fascinating off-beat projects like this, I’ll keep anticipating them.
(July 18 – limited)
Michel Gondry’s long-delayed romance finally sees the light of day. Or so we think.
(July 4 – limited. July 18 in South Florida)
The trailer for this didn’t move me but anything from the creator of Once is worth looking forward to.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Alice in Wonderland 2
“I AM HERCULES!!!”
The Expendables 3